The Philadelphia Phillies shocked the St. Louis Cardinals with a ninth-inning comeback in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series Friday afternoon in St. Louis. It was 2-0 Cardinals heading to the ninth but would end in a 6-3 Phillies victory.
Here’s how it went down.
Helsley falters in furious Phillies comeback
The Phillies’ offense was completely punchless for most of this one. Prior to the ninth inning, Alec Bohm’s double to lead off the fifth inning was their biggest scoring threat, and he was left helplessly on third base. It seemed elementary that Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley would shut things down in the ninth inning because the Phillies really hadn’t given anyone any reason to believe they had a rally in them.
And yet, what a rally it was.
Rhys Hoskins led off the inning with a strikeout, but then the rally commenced. JT Realmuto singled, followed by walks to Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos.
During the course of those two at-bats, it became evident that Helsley had lost command, notably with his triple-digit fastball. He had been dealing with an issue with the middle finger on his pitching hand recently, so it’s possible this was at least part of the problem. He remained in the game and hit Bohm with a pitch to bring home a run. With a 2-1 lead, the Cardinals had no choice but to remove Helsley.
Rookie Andre Pallante came on and Jean Segura found a way through the infield.
Segura, before this game, had the most regular-season games played without a playoff appearance, among active players. Quite a thrill for his first one, huh?
The Phillies would tack on three more runs.
It was a six-run ninth despite scoring zero runs in the first eight innings. Ridiculous and amazing here on the first day of the playoffs.
Yepez looked like a hero
Rookie Juan Yepez pinch hit for Corey Dickerson against Phillies lefty Jose Alvarado in the bottom of the seventh and came through on the first pitch of his playoff career:
The two-run shot was was the first pinch-hit, go-ahead homer in Cardinals history. It was also a bit of a “breathe a sigh of relief” moment for the Cardinals, as missed opportunities was the theme up to that point in what was previously a scoreless game.
Nolan Arenado flew out to deep left-center in the bottom of the fourth. It looked like a home run off the bat and Arenado reacted like he thought it was gone after it ended up a 388-foot out. It was very well struck, carrying an expected batting average of .840.
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Albert Pujols came up with two on and no out and grounded into a double play. He’s the career leader in double plays grounded into, but he also has plenty of RBI on the dossier, so it felt like a huge moment for the Phillies at the time.
Instead, Yepez came through and looked like the hero … until the ninth.
Quintana deals for Cardinals, again
José Quintana was traded from the Pirates to the Cardinals in front of the deadline and he wasn’t exactly the sexiest acquisition, but he’s been nails for the Cards. He made 12 starts with the Cardinals and not one time did he allow more than two runs. He only gave up three runs total in his last six starts and going back to his time with the Pirates had a 1.67 ERA in his last 14 starts.
He went 5 1/3 innings on Friday, allowing only two singles and a walk. He only struck out three, but he induced weak contact all day and kept the ball on the ground, getting six groundouts. In the immortal words of The Dude, freaking “Quintana, that creep can roll, man.”
Wheeler does, too
Not to be outdone, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler threw 6 1/3 scoreless frames, also allowing only two singles. He actually gave up some hard contact, but was the beneficiary of some good batted-ball fortune. Overall, though, it was a great, workman-like outing. He put his team in position to win the ballgame despite lackluster offense and that’s all you can ask from a starter.
The ninth-inning from the offense will rightfully get the headlines, but let’s not forget about the work from Wheeler. He was a huge part of this victory.
The Cardinals mounted a small rally in the ninth
The Cardinals were able to score a run and then bring Yadier Molina to the plate with two runners on, meaning he represented the tying run with two outs. Phillies reliever Zach Eflin struck him out to end the threat.
Molina went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in the game. He hit .214/.233/.302 during the regular season.
Next: Game 2 Saturday
They’ll do it again in St. Louis on Saturday night with a local start time of 7:37, which is 8:37 ET and the last game of the day. The scheduled starting pitchers are Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25) for the Phillies and Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29) for the Cardinals.
A Phillies win means they advance to face the Braves in the NLDS, starting in Atlanta on Tuesday. A Cardinals win keeps them alive and provides the entertainment of a Game 3 on Sunday.